TO THE ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN,
CONCERNING THE WEAVERS.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1729.
The archbishop to whom Swift wrote was Dr. William King, for many years his friend. King was a fine patriot and had stood out strongly against the imposition of Wood’s Halfpence. In this letter, so characteristic of Swift’s attitude towards the condition of Ireland, he aims at a practical and immediate relief. The causes for this condition discussed so ably by Molesworth, Prior and Dobbs in their various treatises are too academic for him. His “Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture” well illustrates the kind of practical reform Swift insisted on. Yet the insistence was more because of the spirit of independence such a course demanded. To Swift there was no hope for Ireland without a radical change in the spirit of its people. The change meant the assertion of manliness, independence, and strength of character. How to attain these, and how to make the people aware of their power, were always Swift’s aims. All his tracts are assertions of and dilations on these themes. If the people were but to insist on wearing their own manufactures, since they were prohibited from exporting them, they would keep their money in the kingdom. Likewise, if they were to deny themselves the indulgence in luxuries, they would not have to send out their money to the countries from which these luxuries were obtained. There were methods ready at hand, but the practice in them would result in the cultivation of that respect for themselves without which a nation is worse than a pauper and lower than a slave.
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The text of this edition
is based on the original manuscript, and
collated with that of Scott’s second edition of Swift’s collected
The corporation of weavers in the woollen manufacture, who have so often attended your Grace, and called upon me with their schemes and proposals were with me on Thursday last, when he who spoke for the rest and in the name of his absent brethren, said, “It was the opinion of the whole body, that if somewhat were written at this time by an able hand to persuade the people of the Kingdom to wear their own woollen manufactures, it might be of good use to the Nation in general, and preserve many hundreds of their trade from starving.” To which I answered, “That it was hard for any man of common spirit to turn his thoughts to such speculations, without discovering a resentment which people are too delicate to bear.” For, I will not deny to your Grace, that I cannot reflect on the singular condition of this Country, different from all others upon the face of the Earth,